Here’s the idea: create bird baths and garden totems with clear glass or plastic vases, and fill them up with whatever materials you like. This way, you get the look of gorgeous materials like burlap and twine without the wear and tear of the weather, and you don’t have to bother using adhesive to secure items like kitchen utensils and seashells. Everything is nicely displayed within the vases, and they’ll last for many years.
If you don’t want to use it as a bird bath, you can always turn it into a planter like the ones shown here.
I’ll show you the variations I made, provide a tutorial, and give you some additional ideas. The possibilities are endless. I’m quite obsessed with this!
1. Burlap Bird Bath
Like many gardeners, I’m obsessed with burlap (also known as hessian or jute). There’s something about the texture that is a perfect combination of wild and tame—much like cultivated gardens!
How much burlap you need depends on the size of your vases. A neat trick for using less burlap is to insert a smaller vase or tall drinking cup in the center of the vase and just stuff burlap around it. I get most of my supplies at thrift shops so the costs are next to nothing. [See rolls of burlap on Amazon.com]
Make sure whatever you choose for the actual bird bath dish is not more than an inch or so deep. Birds struggle and drown in deeper water. There are four more tips on bird bath safety here.
2. Twine Bird Bath
Jute twine is very inexpensive and has a gorgeous texture—visually, at least—it’s quite rough to touch but looks great in garden art. You can see the type of twine I used here on Amazon.com.
You could go two different directions with this one: roll up the twine neatly like I did (it’s wrapped around drinking glasses), or go wild and messy and stuff it in the vase. I think either way looks great.
Related: 12 Practical Uses for Burlap in the Garden (plus craft & decor ideas)
3. Kitchen Utensil Bird Bath
This is one of my favourite ideas and I’m planning a bigger version of it this summer. If you can get a box of old kitchen utensils from the thrift store or a yard sale, you’re off to the races. I love the look of metal so I avoid plastic kitchen gadgets but really, do whatever you love. Make sure the vases you choose will hold the items you want to fit in there. I have an eggbeater in the bottom vase and it just made it in there with no room to spare due to the width of the handles.
Again, add a clear glass or smaller vase in the center and place the utensils around it if you want to be more economical about it.
4. Seashell Bird Bath
This is a fun way to display any non-precious collections you have that are just collecting dust in the house. And how cool will this look in the garden?
Again, make sure your vases can hold your treasures. Looking at this photo (above), it would also look neat to combine the seashells and starfish with the rope for a nautical theme.
5. More Ideas
Ever since I started making these, I can’t stop thinking of ideas for more. As a frugalista first and foremost, I tend to look for what’s readily available cheap or free, and let the love affair with the idea flow from there.
You could also use:
- Small toys
- Marbles or glass gems
- Bottle caps
- Scrabble letters
- Old keys
- Junk jewelry
- Crushed pop cans
- Balls of tin foil
- Newspaper, letters, pages from books, magazines, love notes
- Nails, screws, and rusty tools
- Fake fruit
- Fabrics, clothes, colourful odd socks!
- Pens and pencils
See what I mean? If you can fit it in the vase and you have a bunch of them, use them!
Imagine a garden totem with 6 vases stacked up filled with bent forks and spoons. Very cool.
6. Bird Bath Tutorial
1. Gather your materials and make sure the glass is clean and grease-free
- 2 tall, wide, clear vases (at least 12″ tall each).
- 2 shallow pie plates (can be clear glass or whatever you like, not more than 1″ deep if used for birds).
- OPTIONAL: You can add a clear bowl (upside down) under the bottom vase so you have something to bury in the ground to hold the bird bath steady.
- Items to include inside the vases (burlap, twine, utensils or whatever).
- Top decoration (optional). In these photos I show a bird and watering can on top. Whatever you do, make sure the bird bath is still easy to clean.
- Adhesive: GE II Silicone Sealant or E6000 (to attach the glass pieces together).
- Safety glasses, glove, ventilated work space.
2. Stuff the vases
- Test out different arrangements with your treasures in the vases. When you’re satisfied, it’s time to adhere the pieces together.
3. Adhere the pieces together in sets of two
- Read the instructions and safety precautions on the adhesive.
- For best results, see my article on how to make sure things really stick.
- NOTE: The lower pie plate is placed upside down so it won’t gather water outdoors. See my photos for reference.
- First, measure the vases and pie plates and mark where you want to attach them together (washable marker works well). Remember to also mark where you’ll join the two sets together (Step 4).
- Work in sets: first attaching the lower vase to it’s pie plate (this one goes upside down), and the top vase to it’s pie plate (this one goes right side up so it can collect rain water), then you’ll join the two pieces together.
- It’s easiest to work upside down: set a pie plate down, mark where the vase rim will attach with marker, add the adhesive, attach the vase, place books on top to hold it down while it dries.
- Allow to dry according to instructions on adhesive package.
4. Adhere the two sets together
- Again, allow them to dry properly according to instructions on adhesive package.
- If you’re adding a bowl to the bottom of the entire bird bath, adhere it now and let it dry.
To display outside, if you haven’t added the bottom bowl, you can mound some soil around the base or add some small rocks to hold the bird bath steady.
- Rolls of Burlap at Amazon.com
- Jute twine – pick a nice, thick type so you don’t need tons of it – Amazon.com
- Adhesive: GE II Silicone Sealant (clear, waterproof, for gutters and flashing or doors and windows) – buy it in a tube if you don’t have a caulking gun
or E600 – Amazon.com
- Glass vases and riffraff for inside the vases: check thrift shops and yard sales.
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